Saturday, February 28, 2009

African Violets love wet leaves, but...

This one is not like the others. Look at the tray and you wouldn't need to see the flowers of this African Violet to clearly see it is unlike all the others in my classroom. All the others are the descendants of a single plant that found its way to my room. This one has been propagated also but apparently all but one has sold.

I love propagating them. Not just because it is easy, but for the emergence. Take a leaf cutting, place it into a soil mix (1 to 2 parts sphagnum peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part sterilized loam, and 1 part clean coarse sand or Perlite).

Keep a bit moist and wait. What you won't see is the new roots, what you will see eventually is a new rosette (a circular arrangement of leaves) that will emerge at the base of the the leaf. I then have the students cut off that original leaf which gave its life for a new plant.

These plants love florescent lights at the school as much as my aloes shrink away from them.

They are classified in the genus Saintpaulia. But not the Saint Paul, but Baron Walter von Saint Paul-Illaire, 19th century German soldier, who was in on the "discovery" of the plants somewhere around Tanzania.

And that brings up something that mystified me. I have always heard that African violets do not like getting their leaves wet. Does that make sense? For years I didn't question it, then I wondered why it would be adapted to have dry leaves. It is not a desert plant.

Truth be told.... it's a myth. I do trust the word on the street that says the leaves don't like cold water. Maybe an experiment is in order. However, I can't guarantee no leaves with be harmed during the...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Aloe update and mint young ones

much is happening here and there, but here is another blog about our big aloe plant and its blooms.

Like many flowers on a spike the bottom buds open first and die and the blooming action goes upward..

Here is a view from the top...

yesterday the students got to get there hands on seedlings. They will be touching many more in the next few months. This is spearmint. I was thinking as we worked with the seedlings about how a plant that can be so hard to get rid of as an adult can be so fragile as a young one. We placed 5 seedlings into 4" square pots.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aloe flowers and general update

WE GOT FLOWERS! and I just don't know. I am uncertain if I missed these beauties last year because I was thinking the flowers should be red or orange, which are the colors I had expected on an aloe plant. My memory is that they turned brown and dead quickly, nothing like this. On Friday I sent a student on an internet search to find me yellow aloe flowers, and he did, but he did not find any variegated ones. How cool are these!

I had a student working hard to get our seeds posted on folia but have not gotten around to list which one were planted. It is becoming a bit obvious that they are keeping some useful features back from those who don't give any money, so I will likely join one of these days, maybe even tonight. The First Lady on the left is one of our nine hopes for a pre-graduation tomato. We will nurse it inside for another month and then get it into the greenhouse in April. Speaking of tomatoes, we planted a bunch for our spring plant sale and we also planted our peppers this week. Yes, a bit early for around here, but we will pot them up and keep them in the greenhouse till Mother's Day has come and gone. Many folk seem unimpressed that we are shooting for a red tomato by early June. Too much time at grocery stores, not enough time in gardens????

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

winter sowing

I am not an expert, nor too experienced at winter sowing, but this is what I can tell you. What you do is make mini-greenhouse. I take a one gallon plastic bottle, slice it nearly in half, but not all the way around the diameter. Fill the bottom with good planting medium, soak it. Plant (I do only flowers) seeds as advised on the packet. Duct tape it back together. Oh, yeah. make some holes in the bottom before you do much of anything. Seal the top, but make some slices for heat to escape and some moisture to enter. Place outside. You have created a mini-greenhouse, and the seeds lay dormant till winter eases, then inspired by spring they grow.

Last year was my first attempt....

I had some great successes (the geraniums, pansies, and dahlias come to mind) and some mighty failures. It was cool opening them up to see what had happened. I would imagine as each winter is different, each attempt will yield different results.

Today we planted a bunch, will get a list out at some point, but for now if you are interested, here is the website that got me started.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

winter sowing delayed and other moments of the week

The seeds have arrived, the flowers for winter sowing chosen, the water jugs prepared.... so why then do they sit inside? The school is just a jump, skip, and a hop from Philadelphia where a record high temp was hit this week... 68 degrees. So I thought I better wait for winter to come back. It is back and hopefully next week I will be reporting that these gallon jugs are filed with seed, sealed with duct tape, and lined up on the path to the greenhouse.

Monday we made four batches of onion sage bread and one pan of lavender brownies. On the warm day the students wanted fresh air and muck. Well, maybe they didn't want the muck, but they got it as we moved our fall leaf pile onto the individual beds. Something that didn't happen at its normal time when winter came in fast this year.

After weeks of not playing much jazz in the classroom it came back in a big way this week. Maybe because I have the "post seed order not quite time to plant most of them blues." Here is Summertime from the Stan Getz CD I played for my students.

The Mighty Assistant was busy doing lovely things with some dried strawflowers and globe amaranths, which we then sold along with some heart shaped bird feeders (peanut butter, cornmeal and bird seed). Speaking of birds, here is a plug for a cool place up north of us in Milford, Pennsylvania. I have this poster from Grey Towers hanging in my classroom ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

great great grandmother tries to flower

The great great grandmother of which many of the aloes in my room have come forth from.... is trying to flower again. This is its second attempt. Last year we celebrated the bloom, then sadly it did not open in any kind of glory. The flowers were dry and brown. Anybody know why?

Not a glorious orange, which I had hoped for. But the bud is way cool...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gardening for horses

Sometimes I just don't think outside of my view of the world. So at first I was confused why my offer of tomato and pepper plants was not met with enthusiasm.

My school, through the hard work of an occupational therapist, has built a pilot program for our students to learn about life, work, and horses at the FUN-E-FARM.

The OT asked me to contact them about a gardening project, so Saturday morning I found myself in a barn listening, along with several Pathway students, as the farm owners spoke on how to treat horses.

So they don't want to grow food for humans and thus they wanted to talk about their passion, horses, and combine it with mine, gardening for the kitchen. They want to make compost. They want to use it to grow carrots. They want to feed them to the horses. It is cyclical and a very cool idea. They want our students to be involved in this project. Not sure how much I will be involved in the project, but I will get them some info and we will see what happens.

I can imagine making some space for horse gardening at the school...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

spicy hot brownies, dazed spring, the hope of spinach salad, and a failure

Rule 1: if we cook, it has to come has to have food from the garden. So this week I diced up some of these Joe's round hot peppers and added them to our brownies. Every year before the dreaded killing frost, we harvest a bunch of hot peppers and throw them in the freezer. I never did find a recipe, but I figured that if chocolate and chiles go so well in my favorite Mexican dish (mole' sauce)... then why can't I add them into the brownies. I took out too many of the seeds next time extra heat.

Well, if I drove over to the school right now, this bit of green I saw just outside my classroom would be covered with the snow that has intensified since I got home. On my classroom wall are these words of absolute truth: "... Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches..." from the poem, Spring and All (link is to the entire oh so cool poem), by William Carlos Williams. A friend thought I was praying because I was on my knees getting the photo earlier today.

over half of our spinach seeds have sprouted....

Update: The rice project failed...
theory... too cold in my classroom...
Reality... it just began to smell real bad.

will try again in spring.